tv Panel Discussion on Social Change CSPAN October 11, 2015 1:00am-1:50am EDT
understand what that means for people of faith in washington and beyond but again i'm not arguing the point of seems a bit unusual and i think unusual that i'm writing a book. it's about to me what is the larger journey of life. "after words" airs every sunday at 9 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous programs on the website booktv.org. ..
eight8:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span three. and now book tv coverage of the brooklyn book festival featuring author panels on social change, voting rights, and the middle class. there may be language some people may find offensive. first up a panel on social change. >> last night i was introduced as nick all right. since this is a book festival i will take that as a clever pun or complement or both.
it was apt command i appreciated the introduction. brooklyn law school is enormously proud to once again the supporting and participating with the book festival which has grown to be even though we are observing the 10th anniversary, the largest public free book festival in the city of new york command i suspect the united states if not the galaxy. which reminds me, welcome to the best law school in brooklyn. [applause] now, i suspect that most of you know that we are the only law school in brooklyn, but you know, we areknow, we are the best law school and the biggest, most vibrant borough in the big apple of the incredible empire state in the greatest nation on the planet. so we got that going for us.
we dream big here. in a recent dream alex trebek read me the final jeopardy answer, and it was, it is an international and national center of learning about the power of law to improve the world. in my dream i one by quickly scribbling down the one in question. why did brooklyn law school observed in the same week. hundredth anniversary of magna carta? the anniversary of the united states constitution, the 100 50th anniversary of the eastern district of new york and the 10th anniversary of proposed law school? it is because brooklyn law school, your law school, is the center of learning about the power of law.
trying to make legal education more accessible and doing everything we can to help watch our students and graduates a meaningful career so that they can fulfill the public and private roles. the power of law is certainly the continuing thread through all the presentations that you will here here today in a remarkable parade of authors and commentators. no. no doubt, they will touch upon many vivid reminders that we have of how law can make a difference, whether it is the 70th anniversary of the united nations that we observe this week as well and the incorporation into the charter of all mankind for freedoms, freedom of speech, worship, wanting
from fear, or whether it is the seven decades since the liberation of the nazi death camps in the beginning of the nuremberg trials to begin the whole code of, the victims -- the villains of the holocaust accountable for their heinous crimes. or the five decades since the civil rights act, the voting rights act which began tonight's this country closer to racial equality. for speakers and learning from them are looking
forward to discovering new books that will be well worth reading, and i congratulate carolyn greer and liz koch producing this remarkable festival and in particular i would like to acknowledge two leaders unity the protectors. he is a remarkable leader who has helped maintain and expand the preeminence of
brooklyn.. a quite remarkable day, especially all, especially all of you require large numbers. thank you very much. >> thank you. hello. thank you for joining us. i we will be your moderator this morning. i am thrilled to have this conversation. before we begin, i would like to let you know the books from all of the authors are available for sale right front of the building and will be going directly from this conversation downstairs to the assignment table. okay. let me briefly introduce the writers.
i hope many of you are familiar with their work. to my left we have pamela newkirk, an award-winning journalist's article seven published in the numerous publications including the new york times, "washington post", and the nation. the astonishing life of the bingo command amazing nonfiction book, something that happened in new york in 1906, young african man from the congo was kidnapped under dubious circumstances by an american missionary. so i'm excited to talk to you. [applause] option for a movie. very exciting. in memphis, my hometown in 1892 and tells the story of two young women at the beginning of a budding relationship.
have to live with it. and long division is a coming-of-age story about time travel. a teenager that takes me back and forth across america and many decades. this will be a great conversation about history. let's get to it. in all three of your books we meet every day people who are pulled called 1st, virtually kidnapped how are you pulled into these particular histories? >> that's a heck of a question. literally pulled into the archives. i sought to uncover what had actually happened because the narrative around out of angus story had been created by the very people who during his lifetime have exported in. so the bronx zoo in its
narrative said that it is unlikely he had ever been exhibited at all. the new york times which had covered the story every day while it occurred, ten years later said it was urban legend that he had ever been exhibited, and the thing that really pulled me into it is that a book was written in 1992 by the explorer who bought this man, and in that book by grandson it was purported to be the story of friendship between his grandfather. i wanted to kind of sit with that and go through the archives to see if this notion of friendship could be corroborated.
guess what, they were not friends,friends, and none of you have friends like that. >> hopefully. >> i think thati think that i am drawn toward history that focuses on ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. when i found out he was buried in the academic text, but as i start to research the newspaper using a newspapers and get closer to them the headlines were astounding, written in 1892 to about 1902, and the words that they were using and the argument could have been contemporary. we had the same term, unnatural, impossible without progeny, pointless. and so that really, it seemed darkly funny as i went on because they are agendas were on parade the way that they would talk
about women allowed in the courtroom for the 1st time when there was a crowd outside the courthouse. it was -- groups ever singled out for people of color, someone thrown out of the courtroom for looking like a mexican. >> it was worth mentioning the judge is a member of the kkk. >> the founder. >> who had keys to the jail command that is the other thing, the judge had worked at one of them. everyone had their hands in it. it was important to me.
>> one of the most important fans, you know, we are the past and we are the future. she is to bring women over the has to do something called home mission. often she would make me go out on the porch. a listen to the him and hauling and crying and i imagine three or four young black kids coming out of the ground a few of my other friends saw this. it became about really because i was tired of being
lied to in the nation to entire line donation_the people, blinddonation new line the people, blind people i really cared about, and i finally really believed and understood that you cannot transform from a to b unless your honest about a. >> in all of your works the media and journalism is an important part of the narrative. in one of your essays writing that the incredibly racist experiences you are having in the official record that they are trying to erase. throughout the book it is amazing to see how you report how the new york times waivers and goes back
and forth on the narrative. he seems to be enjoying with it. you buy a great deal about the spectacle of the courtroom in a journalist. can you talk about interrogating and grappling with the official record of history's when your trying to get to the heart of the matter? >> it is really interesting. it is not for all of the newspapers, not just the new york city, but around the country and throughout europe, not for those accounts i would not be able to knit together the story. soso in the new york times early in the coverage basically said, he basically said we can learn a lot from having him an occasion as you.
shocking, that wasshocking, that was also a reflection of the prevailing attitude around race in 1906. i wrestled with the archives. but i needed those accounts the patina the story. so between the newspaper articles and the letters that were in the archives for they were voluminous letters written by zoo officials going back and forth of how they are dealing with out of anger. anger. and so i was able to contract the behind-the-scenes letters with the public record.
so whatso what they would say on the record was that he was happier, he wanted to be there. what was happening behind the scenes, battling for resisting captivity, and unruly savage. >> give you an indication of the spectacle toward the end of his tenure. >> i love that. they would just take -- chasing down. >> pursuing him. and the people with civilized people. >> i think i was fortunate in some ways to be
researching a time that coincided with the rise of journalism because people will write anything to sell ads which is also the 1st time that memphis had garnered attention on the national stage. the influx of reporters from different, the new york times to see in the send on the city and the see the city counted them that the position of lunacy, not murder they can you probably have been a couple weeks take six months. they wanted the city to benefit off tourism. these pieces, these materials are not -- to history they are history. we need. everyone and understand the original voices which is
just another way of figuring it out, but also to see where people disagree, how there worldviews are informed by their do you radical location and sometimes not. that really is so important because there is -- it is the author, but it is the author, but it is a newspaper, so different than just reading someone's journal. >> again, i am doing something a little different than what you are doing. you know, james baldwin who was born somewhere around here, somewhere. i think it's important that he was born in new york in harlem and schism going to become a writer, god,, god,
satan, and mississippi notwithstanding. the record that i had to confront was this understanding of the world and parts of the nation have that little black boys and girls and mississippi are not supposed to survive. and so in reckoning with the fact that not only should be survive in spite of what the nation and our state has done to us and so for me it was reckoning and pushing back against this notion that not only should you not right, you should be happy and push against dominant norms.
for me to create a book i have to say, i'm writing this book because i'm from mississippi, not in spite of it. >> one of my favorite actors and perhaps my writing candidate for 2016, viola davis said in an interview, i believe it was the charlie rose that whenever she accepts a role the 1st thing she does is look for the trap, mistakes she can make. when you realize, i have a book, the beginning of a journey, and investment that is years, many years, what were some of the traps, anticipated or unanticipated that you had to deal with china writing process? >> we can call it the trap or we can call it sheer terror. the terror stems from the fact that out of anger had no papers. i can go into these archives
, the eminent men of new york city. after digging for years i was able to actually find out of anger, his poison spirit in the records of the people who held him. there he was. talking back and, you know, if you lean in you can here him, you can feel his resistance. so what began as something that was very intimidating because when you write about
my. they are rendered voiceless without agency and the people who have power are the ones who get to define them. and so i had correspondence which is for women's historian, an embarrassment of riches. and as soon as alex goes into jail she goes dark and she goes on the stand. anything that comes through lawyers, quite well.
i could tell it clearly was not or someone leaning into her. instead i have to do the same thing about together the chapter in the story, but it felt necessary because in no other circumstances would a white woman from a wealthy family be in a small jail run by the founder of the kkk with three men they publicly
called for lynching because it's something she had written. nobody wanted to see alex. figuring out how to make these connections, feeling comfortable, but also giving in to the fact that you will never know. memoirs are inherently flawed because they are driven by perspective, the same way when you are a historian. by presenting the few. that is a way. sometimes you feel like you just have to presented. >> situated at the zoo and the spectators what is going on.
there are only four words in that whole chapter. me no like america. and it said everything. and probably only maybe straight white men. the idea of going back in time, i'm good, great. or not file no. it's a trap. what was it like? what was it like writing? such a journey. time fellow for young black kids. >> that's a great question.
i think that's a great question. having two will yourself through it, really new york editors she told me that the audience did not exist. a book about a book about a book with two narrators. and when they didn't want the book written what they wanted was for me to write it as a native informant. i think pushing back against this kind of directive, i
think that was the hardest part for me, i have stronger. you know, in my book we go back, forward, and in some way the book is a big fark you to people. you know, i was a black kid who wanted to time travel. representing. >> i love it. i love it. the last question, when my book debuted last fall and it deals with young queer black kids you really have to deal with violence,do with violence, i was at my book party instead of to read and i could not ignore the fact that people were marching in ferguson right there at that moment. people were not a reading or whatever there trying to keep up with what was happening.
these books all resonate. what has it been like writing and talking about these books in this particular american moment. >> we are writing about history, and episode that occurred in 1906 when it was so clear black lives didn't matter. the black lives matter movement at that time was the niagara movement which have met just before other thing is exhibition which marked a new low for black life in america command here we are. you know, all these years later were many are looking at other thing that has somewhat of metaphor for backlash today. this young, innocent, sweet boy who was kidnapped, captured brought to this
country, put in a cage. and i think the residents is really powerful. >> is so wonderful that all the panelists and books the people say would not find large audiences. and i think everyone places safe. it was not a total disaster, but some things that i wrote in the footnotes would be inexplicable, so i found
that same-sex marriage shortly, i wrote thisi wrote this line. i'm going to be able to talk about this being incorrect for the rest of my life. same-sex marriage was illegal and is still legal. they happens. the fact that a major production company thinks that this will sell, drawing crowds to theaters. so encouraging to me. >> i will mail a copy. [laughter] >> generosity. >> i will try to be brief. having someone who inspired your book.
you know, my book kind of inspired her. that's crazy. and you know, i did all of that. but i want to say that earlier this year i had a call from some of the most active organizers and the fergusonin the 1st liberation movement and some of the active organizers in the black lives matter movement. i wasmovement. i was talking tour of the dudes from the ferguson movement he was like, you know, your book spoke to me, and then he said how long for a 2nd and came back and was saying my fault, i wasfault, i was trying to talk to him is to international. and i was just like few tell
me this book could do anything for you, i was just grateful. i think what i love about this moment is that authors and activists sometimes are the same person. workers and activists are the same people, and i just think that we are communities of folks who are actually listening and we are creating this accolade is reverberating and pushed back against all kind of hegemonic power and working to heal particular facets of our community. >> beautiful, beautiful he said. [applause] now we have ten minutes. yes, ten minutes for questions. >> questions please. >> there are cameras. don't make me embarrass you in front of your mama. she is probably watching. there is a microphone at the
but it certainly does give all of us or platforms, right? so people who at one time were like so marginalized can now, you know, go on twitter they are words and ideas can spread around the world. it is different in that way. but i think for all of us what we do is what we would do no matter. i think that is true of each of us. it is just another way for another forum to express your ideas. the ideas and provide -- what i write, it would be the same whether writing tablet hundreds of years ago or, you know, he published in the newspaper.
>> quickly, i think that it left is the power, but at the same time, i think that these gatekeepers. >> they morph. >> they morph. >> architecturally they will find ways town, you know, what seems like democratic platforms. >> right. so many comeau with that will actually do. >> i am struck, too. the turn-of-the-century. such a fascinating moment for american journalism. very amorphous. >> i was struck by something alexis said about yellow journalism, something we typically associate with people who came to epitomize yellow journalism. journalism.journalism. and yet there newspaper was the only one in new york city that objected to what it called the disgraceful spectacle.
the new york times and all of the other high-minded were the ones that supported so it just makes me wonder if the labels. so it just makes me wonder if the labels and that history just has a way of just perpetuating narratives that may not even be true. >> be wary of the official record. >> zero, yes. >> thank you so much. it sounds like each of you went into your books with a sense of passion and purpose of discovery and openness, and i would love to hear about the things that surprised you most in the journey. >> was surprised me most, i went into it knowing that was this shocking thing that happened in new york city. i knew that was already stunning.
what really surprised me was the extent to which the entire episode had been sanitized by the custodians about history, you know, how so much effort had been put into totally re-creating a story that into a cold and became inscribed into the hard side of history. so for 100 years all of the people who had exploited or support of the exportation and there descendents got to write a fantastical fiction that circulated around the world. and for me, that was simply stunning, and i do not see myself as naïve. i ami am a pretty skeptical journalist i was surprised by the evidence of so much deception. >> it is amazing that the
missionary is able to not just those all caps off guilt makes himself a hero. >> he rescued out of anger. >> just amazing. >> science fiction. what about the discoveries? >> unfortunately i also knew. i think the question and i went in that i did not resolve was why don't we know there name? in 1892 the nation was obsessed with them. the covers of newspapers fear. and i kept wondering why. i could see their legacy, i knew when the head into the conversation. forty years away from the war, and i realized after two days after alice went into the asylum is important
to can asked her father and stepmother and everyone got right on the train, headed of massachusetts, and that story was preferable because they are both considered fun in the same way. >> yeah, right. >> chicago. >> right. >> pack it up and go to the next. >> but why would you? how much better for our collective memory to think about a wealthy white woman who seemed, you know, to fit within our perception of societal values when someone who had so confounded us to not have a word for it. >> palatable. >> i discovered a lot. in the process i was amazed at how complicit new york publishing was and violently